Thursday, February 26, 2009

A letter from your friendly yearbook adviser

I am a yearbook adviser and tomorrow is the day we submit the entire yearbook. In the past two years at this school, there was so much gone horribly wrong in general that nobody really gave the yearbook any thought. This year, however, things have stabilized and we're preordering books like gangbusters. Before, it was the kids who made my life hell because they just didn't give a shit. This year, the kids are absolutely fantastic and it's the adults who cause the problems. So here is an open letter to all the adults who have given shit to yearbook advisers this year.

Hey you.

Yeah you, the one who keeps making demands and refusing to cooperate.

Fuck you.

I have over 3,000 kids on three tracks to place on 152 pages. I also have to include about two dozen sports, a dozen clubs, student life, baby photos, and leave room for ads and an index. I have to do this using 2 - yes, asshole, TWO - cameras, neither of which is fancy enough to take photos in that gym that is apparently lit with 8 yellow 30 watt bulbs. I have 20 kids and 4 computers. And I have over 200 faculty members who all think that whatever it is they like to think about is the most important issue on campus ever.

I'll tell you what. You let me teach your JROTC how to drill. You let me show your chorus how to warble. You let me teach some goddamn AP calculus while you come over here and handle this shit. Because if you want to do my job, here you go. Let's trade. I'm sure your job is easy, right?

Here in yearbook class we do not glue pictures to pages and photocopy them. This is not a scrap book and it is not a 'zine. It's a goddamn book. That's why they call it a yearBOOK. It takes time and coordination and organization and talent and dedication to complete. And money. Did I mention the money?

I have no money. If I undersell the books, there is no money to pay for them. If I miss deadlines, there is no money to pay the overtime. So when you decide you don't feel like waiting five minutes for my clubs editor to take a picture of your silly little honor society, no I will not push our deadline two more weeks so you can reassemble your little band of nerds. Take the picture yourself and email it to me if it's that fucking important. Otherwise I'm deleting your shit and replacing it with something interesting to look at. Our deadline is tomorrow. You probably should have scheduled your picture back in December when the subject was first brought to your attention.

So in conclusion, here is what is going to happen. We are going to put this awesome book together and you are going to help in any way you can. And if you bitch about it, I'm still going to do your page the way the kids want to do it because it is THEIR book, not yours. It's not mine either. It's theirs. And this is about them. Remember the kids? This is not about a picture you like or a kid you want to prominently feature, and it is not about showing me or your students who's boss. This is about teaching kids how to design pages, take photos, write captions, run a committee. This is not about your little group, it's about representing the whole school, and if you give a shit about your kids you will make sure they are represented in the book by doing what I tell you to do. Because when it comes to year-end memories, I am the fucking boss. So show some fucking respect, shut up and hand over your pictures or next year you'll be relegated to a tiny photo in the index between X and Y.


Your Yearbook Adviser.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stories the kids are telling these days

It is once again the end of a semester. When you teach in year-round school you get a lot of ends of the year. This time I have the added bonus of grading papers while I finish the yearbook, but fortunately I have an amazing staff that has its shit completely together so all I have to do is proofread, double check and send in pages. For the first time I won't have to take home work for the vacation.

As for the papers I have to grade, I've finished everything except a set of short stories that was the culminating project for my 11th graders. They wrote some pretty neat stories, and three girls actually teamed up to write different stories about the same characters. I've never seen that before. They came up with a love triangle and each girl wrote a story from the perspective of a different person in the triangle. There are some inconsistencies - how a character dies changes from story to story and not in a way that it was simply a perspective issue - but it was still kind of cool when I realized I was reading about the same characters.

The main problems this time around are 1) way too much passive voice and separation of character from the action and 2) showing not telling.

By "separation of character" I mean that they keep saying things like "His face appeared to be angry" instead of just saying "He looked angry." Of course the better way would be to describe a scene in which we saw the anger, but despite my harping on the subject, a lot of kids still don't get how to do that.

Still, there's some good stuff here. So far I've had two rapes, three suicides, one drug overdose, one molested 9-year-old, a teenage pregnancy and one vampire. And I've only graded six stories.

I saved for last the one girl in my class who is just a fantastic writer. Everything she writes is above and beyond anything I've seen from these kids before. Hell, she's way better than I was at that age, and she admits she's thought about being a writer. Still, she seemed really pleased and surprised that I praised her stuff so much. I hope she writes some best selling novels. Maybe she'll let me option them for a dollar.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sex and zombies

I have this scene in the Not Dead Yet where a dude has to kill his woman. It's a zombie script so of course somebody has to kill somebody else they love because that's what you do when people you love become the enemy - you shoot them in the head.

Anyway, I never really thought the scene had enough impact and neither did people who read it. It was an okay scene as scenes go, but it wasn't jerking any tears or really knocking anybody out. Like that scene in the original Dawn of the Dead where they have to kill the soldier guy and you're all "Man, I liked that guy, dammit." In my story you're more like "Oh well, good riddance to that bitch anyway." And that's not really what I'm going for.

I was discussing the script with someone and the subject of sex came up. As in, I don't have any. I have this big old actiony script with not a single sex scene, even though the plot hinges a bit on a love triangle. I am American. I consider violence more appealing than sex.

I thought briefly about making two zombies have sex but then decided against it because tha is an entirely different kind of zombie film.

So I got to thinking about it, and it occurred to me that I had no one scene of the man and his wife alone together. Sure I had a bunch of scenes with them in a group but no moments for them to share what makes them truly love each other. Of course the solution to this is to create a sex scene around the man and his wife.

Much of the time I think sex in film is gratuitous. It's like hey, our actress has nice tits and we want boys to see our movie so let's make some people get naked for a ridiculously long time!

You know that scene where there's an orgy while Neo and Trinity have sex in Zion? Yeah, that scene takes up an entire chapter on the DVD.

But if you can use sex to show character - now you've got something. How does the woman react to her husband's touch? What kind of problems are they having that I can show through the way they approach sex? You can often tell how someone feels about a relationship when you see how they respond to the other person's touch. It's hard to hide the attraction factor.

I still don't think I'm making anyone cry, but I do think it makes my death scene more memorable and worth something now that I added just one little scene between husband and wife. And I definitely think it make the overall script much, much stronger to the point where I feel like this is the one thing I've been missing the whole time.

And I didn't even have to make an actor get naked.

Monday, February 23, 2009

How I spent my weekend

I didn't post Friday because I was away this weekend.

You know, sometimes you look at the note from a substitute and you can just tell they are a complete idiot. People, don't become a sub unless you have some balls. "I am not accustomed to students rifling through a teacher's desk" he says.

Neither am I. Why the fuck was he letting them do that?

Anyway, After I was sick that one day, which is why I took a sick day of course, I got well just in time to go to San Francisco. My absence from school is in no way affiliated with my trip, Mr. Principal.

Anyway, some people like to make big elaborate plans and itineraries and such when they travel. They like everything to be smooth and organized and chaos free.

Not me. I usually make hotel reservations just to make sure I get the best deal and then go from there. There's always one or two things I'd like to do, but nothing on a set schedule. When I visited Paris for the first time I just walked to what I could see. I'd see something interesting in the distance and then I'd walk until I got there to see what it was. Note to anyone who plans to do this: The Eiffel Tower is visible from several miles away. You should probably take the Metro or you might end up crawling back to your hotel room.

Don't tell my mom, but I've stayed in some real crack dens because of the fly-by-night planning method. Once, Ex Boyfriend and I stayed in the nastiest, cheapest motel in town where actual drug dealers were doing business in the room below. The hotel manager was so happy to have us that he gave us a giant candle thingee to take home at the end of our stay, although I spent the entire drive back pondering the possibility that it was actually a bomb and the hotel manager was a terrorist using us to blow up the infidel-filled Los Angeles. This is probably why I write action movies.

In San Francisco The Beefcake and I wanted to do two things: Go to Alcatraz and walk on the bridge. Now Alcatraz was awesome because The Beefcake has some pull in certain things, and we got to see parts of the island the rest of the visitors did not get to see. We are in a lot of people's vacation photos, I'm sure. So that went well and I learned a lot of things.

But the bridge - ah, the bridge. First we couldn't figure out the bus routes because they're not as well marked as one would hope. They have much better public transportation in San Fran than LA, but much less information about where that transportation is going. But that's okay because every single person we met there was nice. It was kind of weird. I've never been to a place where people were so goddamn friendly.

Anyway so we finally found the bridge at 6:45 and as we started to walk across it a loud, disembodied and angry female voice yelled out "Those two people going on the bridge, you need to turn around. You are not allowed on the bridge at this hour."

So we turned around after our scolding and pondered what to do next, and while we were pondering the disembodied voice basically told us to go fuck our mothers. Actually, she said if we had a problem with it we could call somebody and they could explain to us how to fuck our mothers. Actually, that's not what she said but it was kind of like that. We were just looking at the bridge and wishing we could cross it; we weren't planning the mutiny of which we were suspected.

Apparently they close the bridge at 6:30 so people won't jump off at night. Jumping off during the day is preferred.

After we left the hotel the next morning we drove over to the bridge to walk it in the day time, but then the rains came. It was like living in a fucking rain forest with the rain and the more rain and the goddamn windy rain. And we were like "Fuck a poncho," and I remembered when I was standing in front of my apartment with an umbrella and Beefcake was like "We don't need that," and made me put it back. Even though it took up no space in the car.

That dude is weird.

We walked about a fourth of the way down the bridge before we turned around and came back. Sheets of water fell right off the bridge over the swarm of ducks that was partying in the rain. My swede coat is no longer the same shade of brown. My socks were soaked through and the hood on my sweatshirt was still wet when we arrived in LA 9 hours later.

But that's what stories are made of. Sure, we could have gotten there on a sunny day and walked across the bridge and back, but then that's all there would be to it. "Did you go on the bridge?" people would ask, and we would say "Yes, it was nice." But now we can say "Yes, dammit, and we got soaked and scolded and couldn't see shit because it was all wet everywhere. And there were ducks."

That's actually why I travel, I think. So I can see the crack dens and the rain-soaked bridges and get lost in the middle of nowhere and explore the world around me in a way that will give me stories to tell.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Beefcake likes it

The Beefcake (my boyfriend for the uninitiated) doesn't watch very many shows with plots. He prefers Discovery Channel type stuff like Man Vs Wild and Human Wrecking Balls and Destroyed in Seconds so I spend a lot of nights learning about destruction and survival. We like to see what kind of sweater Ron Pitts will wear today on Destroyed in Seconds and we also like to predict which kind of destruction it will be in each episode. It's always some combination of race car crash, boat race crash, some kind of natural disaster, and an industrial explosion.

But I'm not satisfied with standalone explosions. I like my explosions to be plot related. So I've spent a goodly amount of time trying to figure out what The Beefcake will and will not tolerate watching.

His main beef (haha I said beef) with plot dramas is that they take themselves too seriously. He cannot sit still for 24 because Jack is always so damned intense. He's got a point - when's the last time anybody on 24 made a joke? There is no Chandler Bing at CTU. And don't get that man started on the ridiculousness of Prison Break.

He tried valiantly to watch Battlestar Galactica, but after listening patiently to my explanation of the storyline for quite some time he finally told me to just watch while he played with the cat. We had a similar experience with Lost, although he's willing to put in a little more effort on that one because he used to like Alias. But Lost is confusing even for those of us who've been there for every episode.

"Stop explaining," he said to me last night. "Every time you explain I get more confused."

Beefcake doesn't like sitcoms much either because they're fake. They go the opposite direction in that they don't take themselves seriously enough.

This is why he loves Leverage. Leverage has a sense of humor and is easy to follow, but has deep character development and theme. Plus, explosions. Seriously though, is that not the best show on TV right now? I think I have fallen in love with Aldis Hodge.

I've been trying to think up other shows he might enjoy. I need to introduce him to Burn Notice, I think. I tried Psych and he doesn't hate it, but the campiness is a bit overwhelming. He'll tolerate Life on Mars but he feels like Life is too procedural. He doesn't mind Supernatural, probably because we both agree that Jensen Ackles is cooler than squeezy cheese.

I'm grateful that The Beefcake is patient enough to watch the shows at least once, and I'm even more grateful that he doesn't like football. Still, there's only so many car race crashes I can watch before I want a backstory, so I'll keep looking for good shows he won't mind watching.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vacation plans

Vacation is coming up again in a little under two weeks so I'm starting to plan my activities.

I can't afford to travel this time, although I do have a few fine people coming to visit me so that will be fun. I get to meet Mr. and Mrs. Beefcake, which I admit is quite intimidating. Plus my mommy is coming to visit and I have to take her to see Hearst Castle, where much of my zombie story takes place. I'll probably have to restrain myself from running around pretending to shoot zombies so I don't embarrass my mother.

And at some point next month I'm going to start taking Jujitsu. Because OMG fun.

I also plan to get some work done over the break because when you have a job that affords you 4 months of vacation a year, you feel like a loser if you just watch movies and visit castles all the time.

I'm taking a class to get a certification for work, but it's online. Basically I'll be spending most of my vacation days on the couch again with my laptop on my legs, and that's exactly how I like it.

I'm finally winding down my revision on Not Dead Yet. There have been vast improvements over the past few months and I think with a few more passes I'll have that thing perfected and ready to throw into the fray again.

When that's done, I want to start something new. I know I was supposed to finish Fear of Clowns and... well I liked the idea so much at first but I've just found myself so reluctant to work on the damn thing. I had to force myself to complete the first draft and I feel like it's just not a solid story. I'd like to think I'll come back to it. Maybe I'll do a pass on it just to clean it up enough for an outside opinion on what I'm doing wrong. Right now parts of it don't even make sense.

I hate that crap. I hate feeling kind of excited about an idea, then sort of losing interest as it doesn't turn out to be the fun zombie blasting time you thought you were after. Maybe I should just stop writing anything that's not an action adventure story.

Speaking of which, I think my next story will be an untitled thing about a girl who's looking for her long lost daddy. It's based on a backstory I created for a character I had planned to use in a space bounty hunter pilot I never wrote. I realized if I took her story and set it in the present I could write a really kickass action script with a teenage female lead. I'm still working out the details and right now I could use a McGuffin.

It feels fun right now so I think I'll go with that one. I just hope it doesn't turn into another wasted effort. I cannot ride through life on zombies alone.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Man Vs Wild Vs Man

A lot of comparisons have been made between Survivorman and Man Vs Wild. And I prefer Man Vs. Wild.

Everybody knows Les Stroud from Survivorman is really out there, in it, on his own and what you see is what you get, while occasionally Bear Grylls stays in hotels after he pretends to sleep in a cold uncomfortable tent all night. And you know what? I don't care.

Les Stroud is a scientist and he travels around with his one camera teaching anthropology with static camera moves and natural light and an even toned way of explaining things. "Oh, look," he might say. "Here's a bear. I wonder if he will eat me."

Meanwhile Bear Grylls takes off his shirt a lot and has lots of crazy camera angles because his camera man is badass, and he makes everything sound like an adventure. "If I can't get this bottlecap off, I might starve to death and a dragon will eat me!"

Bear understands that this is a TV show and his job is to entertain while educating. And I respect Les Stroud ever so much because he is clearly a badass dude who knows lots and can hang in the wilderness all alone, I don't spend his shows on the edge of my seat. He doesn't get naked and jump into a frozen lake just to show me how to get out of it. Bear does. I'm sorry but you just can't compete with that, gentle Canadian dude.

So if Bear has to stay in a hotel one night, eh, it doesn't bother me so much. He knows how to survive in the wilderness and he's showing me techniques for doing the same and he does it in an entertaining way. As far as I know, he really did sleep in that tree all night with a big old fatty knife in his hand while bears swatted at his toes. And then in the morning he ate their testicles.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My philosophy on Valentine's Day

So here we go with Valentine's Day. I've never been a huge follower of the holiday as I've spent most of them on my own or in a relationship where we both agreed it was kind of a silly holiday.

Some people go on long tangents about how much they hate Valentine's Day, but I never really hated it. What I hate is the children all over the school trailing piles of balloons and giant teddy bears and factory assembled packages that have absolutely no personal thought attached to them. But I never liked the idea of giving a Christmas style gift either.

I think of Valentine's Day this way. When you've been in a relationship a long time you start to forget to go on dates. You stay at home and watch movies on the couch and fart in front of each other and pee with the door open. Valentine's Day reminds you to go on a date, like you did at the beginning. In case you haven't done that in a while.

So I like to just have a nice date. In this case we're not going out, we're cooking fondue together and watching Tae Guk Gi on the couch, you know, because it's so romantic. But there will be no farting.

Okay maybe there will be farting, but I at least plan to wear makeup.

And I wouldn't say no to flowers, because it's been years since a man bought me flowers.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What did you watch in high school?

I can always tell just how good a movie is when I show it in class by how many students are awake.

You always have at least a few students who decide they'll sleep through the movie and I wake them up once. If after that they decide to keep sleeping I shrug my shoulders and don't worry too much about it. But if you show a good movie it ceases to be an issue.

Today I started showing Life is Beautiful because we just finished reading Night. At first, about ten heads hit the desk. And by fifteen minutes into the film all but one had crept back up. The one that didn't come back up belongs to a girl who cares only on even numbered Wednesdays.

Life is Beautiful is one of two films I can always rely on to get the kids interested, the other being Romeo + Juliet.

This lead me to wonder what other films have this effect on kids so I'm taking a survey. What movies do you remember watching in high school?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Do better.

Just now I suddenly remembered this column over at Done Deal that I used to read when I was a new screenwriter. The column is called Hollywhooped and it's pretty good for newbies. People write in their questions and the ever patient David Steinberg answers them as he has for years. 98% of the questions are variations on "How do I get an agent?" and he just keeps on answering them politely and accurately, year after year.

So anyway, I remembered the column and read the latest letters and saw the following which made me irritated:

"I have a great idea(yes, i do!) and although i'm still learning, my screenwriting skills could be improved - somewhat..... I was just wondering, do people from the industry go for the ideas although the scriptwriting skills maybe average/slightly above average? ie. if the idea shone through an average script would they still be interested or should i just make sure the script is top notch before i submit my piece? and for that matter, is a script ever top notch as so many people say 90% or writing is rewriting..."


Let me translate:

"Hey I have a good idea just like everybody else in America. I can't actually write and I'm too lazy to remember capitalization rules I learned in second grade, but will somebody pay me money for thinking up something cool and then wait for me to figure out how to write?"


"I have an idea for a new airplane. I don't know anything about physics and I'm not very good at building stuff, but do you think if I just nailed some boards together somebody would give me a chance to build airplanes for a living?"

Sure, we've all sent out a script we thought was ready when it wasn't, but that's about denial. Why would you ever, EVER knowingly send less than your best work to someone who could sell it? Anybody know how many people like us there are? People who slave away over excellent ideas until they are perfect and ready and full of all our best efforts? I've got a great idea, but I'm also willing to put the effort into making a great screenplay. Why the fuck would an agent want to buy anything from your lazy, no capitalization using ass?

You hear all the time that 99% of the unsold screenplays floating around town are garbage. I do not consider those people my competition because my scripts will not be garbage under any circumstances. And they won't be garbage plus one. No, my competition is Bill Martell, and Bill's competition is David Koepp and Koepp's competition is Bill Goldman, and okay Bill Goldman doesn't really have any competition.

If you're not trying to beat the guy above you, you'll never be where he is.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Getting around to The Shield

I have a confession to make. I never watched the last season of The Shield.

It's sitting on my DVR, in its entirety, just waiting for me to get around to it and mocking me every time I go to select something to watch.

It all began when I didn't get time to watch the season premiere. By the time I was able to get around to it, there was a second episode already recorded. I thought about it, then decided I just wasn't up for The Shield. And than another week went by, and, well, I decided to just wait and have a marathon some day when I was more in the mood.

The Shield
is one of those shows you have to be in the mood to watch. Or Battlestar Galactica and Lost, too. You can't really just plunk down with some essays to grade and casually glance over at those shows the way you can with an NCIS or a Law and Order or even The Daily Show. You gotta pay attention to a serious drama.

And with The Shield, you have the added bonus of a grim view of humanity. Sometimes the dark nature of The Shield just makes it hard to drum up the energy to watch it.

I loved The Shield. I still remember when the very first commercial stopped me and my then roommate cold in our living room. It was played backwards, and you learn at the end that this guy had just shot a criminal in cold blood, and that the guy was a cop. A cop who looked a lot like the Commish. We were plunked in front of the TV for the premiere. We didn't even wait for Tivo to frontload, we watched commercials and everything. And Former Roommate NEVER watched commercials.

But it's tough to work up the investment in an episode of the show because it's just so grim and complex. It's effected my ability to watch other shows too. I tried to get into Sons of Anarchy but it was just too heavy and knowing I already had The Shield backing up on my DVR made me quit recording it. I did watch The Riches, but it suffered the same fate as The Shield. I think I finally watched the last season about three months after it aired.

So maybe it's just FX shows. But even though I do watch Battlestar Galactica within the next week, I always end up waiting until I can pay careful attention.

So tonight I turned on my TV and saw that I was recording both Leverage and DEA, shows The Beefcake likes to watch. I can't watch them until he gets here tomorrow, so as I was scrolling through the shows and movies I already had recorded, I remembered The Shield. And now I'm watching it.

But I'm only writing this post between important plot points because this shit is intense.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Social Graces

Every now and then I get an email from someone I've never seen before saying something like "Hey, want to read my screenplay? Here it is!" with a 150 page tome attached. It's a bit like someone knocking on my door and saying "Hey we've never met but I've seen you before. Here are my kids. I'll be back to pick them up at 12."

Sometimes I'll get an email from someone I've never seen saying "Hey, we should go to the movies tonight."

I'm not even famous or successful as a screenwriter, so I can't imagine how much more frustrating it must be for someone with a name.

If you live outside the LA system, there are some things you should know about the way things work in town. Everybody in this town is looking for a connection, but nobody admits they are looking for a connection. At a party, when you meet an agent you do not say "Hey I've got a screenplay in my purse! Here!" and then shove it into his hands.

You say "Oh really? What kind of clients do you work with?" and then when they talk about it you comment on how much you like that kind of stuff, eventually sliding in the fact that you write screenplays. If they're interested they'll ask to see one. If they're not, they'll pretend they didn't hear you. But first you have to make friends, because in this town people only do business with their friends.

Once I was at a big time industry party and I was introduced to a literary agent. I was polite and friendly and as I was about to slip in the fact that I'm a writer, someone came along and swept him away. A little while later a friend called, and I went into a quieter area and talked to said friend in front of a mirrored wall. In the reflection of the mirror I saw the agent come up behind me, then when he realized I was on the phone, he sheepishly wandered away. I was so pissed at my friend that we are no longer friends.

Just kidding. We are no longer friends for an entirely different reason. But still. I never saw that agent again the rest of the party.

Which brings me to personality and looks. I'm convinced that if my script was perfect I'd already be making millions because I'm good at parties. It's an act you have to put on - you can't be wallflower lady and you can't be frumpy fat screenwriter guy. The agent at that party probably wanted to talk to me because I was wearing a very short skirt. Now it's Hollywood so there's about thirty actresses at every party, but I have the advantage of not being an actress. So when I'm talking to someone with influence I ask questions and only talk about myself in context of things that relate to that person.

I smile a lot. I flirt. Because just because I want to make a living with my brain doesn't mean I can't use my looks to get your attention. Many writers fear people and hide in the corner in their Battlestar Galactica T-shirt talking to people they already know. Understandable. Talking to people is scary. But you can't make it in this town unless you make friends, so if you can't handle parties you've got to compensate with something else.

Also make business cards. Once you make friends, you have to give them an easy way to contact you.

Basically, in order to make it here you have to develop social skills. Be friendly. Shower. Shave your legs and wear a short skirt.

Or if you can't, find a friend who can and is willing to drag you around. But don't ask me unless we've met before, please.

Friday, February 06, 2009

I can't stand the rain against my window

It's raining in Los Angeles.

I come from a rainy state. In NC it sprinkles and thunderstorms and all kinds of precipitation all year long, and at first when I moved here I missed the rain daily. The first time it really rained I ran outside and danced in it, I was so happy to see the rain.

But then years went by and somehow I became an Angelino. And now when it rains I'm all "Fuck that. I ain't going outside in the rain. That's how you get wet!"

When the rain lets up we all rush to the grocery store to buy bread and milk to keep us fed in the coming hard times of the next 24 rainy hours. If you leave the house IT WILL GET YOU.

I never even check the weather anymore, which is how I wound up freezing in sandals and a short-sleeve shirt yesterday; My clothing choices are always based on the previous day's weather.

Anyway, I'm about to brave the rain to go see Coraline tonight and I am stoked. I can only hope its dark tone keeps the little hellians away, because who wants to deal with fucking children at a kids movie? Seriously? But I LOVE The Nightmare Before Christmas and as soon as I saw the first preview for this I knew I had to see it. So the rain will not stop me, mostly because the movie is indoors.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Where to?

I've got a bunch of story ideas rolling around in my brain right now. I'm still finishing up with Not Dead Yet, but I'm also trying to get something new started so I don't just peddle around for eternity on the same project and never move on.

I'm toying with the possibility of adapting H Ryder Haggard's She. Mystery Man pointed out a list not long ago that includes all literary works in the public domain and I noticed She was on it. I loooooved that book in grad school. It's had a few adaptations, including one successful one with Ursula Andress. But my main reason for wanting to do this adaptation is to use it as a work sample just in case I end up in the right place at the right time. There is a book I want to adapt more than anything in the world. I would probably knife somebody for that opportunity, but the book has gotten tossed around Hollywood over and over and every now and then we hear about some new effort to adopt it and then it lands in development hell.

I want this book. So maybe I'll adapt She to prove I can do this book. You know, just in case I meet the right studio head at a party.

I'm also thinking about this athletic competition thing based on contests I keep going to, but I'm a little worried about my ability to maintain enthusiasm for something with no fight scenes or gun battles. Every time I try to write something without lots of violence I get bored and can't finish. So I think I'll put the athletic thing aside for now.

There's this space bounty hunter pilot I've been thinking about for years and I've got it pretty well set in my mind, but I've wandered further and further away from television over the years. I used to think I was headed for TV but the more I've worked on features the more I want to continue working on features. And this pilot could never be a feature.

But then the other night I realized that if I took the backstory I created for my pilot I could form a solid feature story. There's a whole drama I created for my lead to explain her life choices that would actually make a pretty slick standalone story. With fights and gun battles the way I like.

So it will either be an adaptation of She I take on next, or this bounty hunter story. I'm hesitating because I just hate starting on something and then losing interest. I've got too many half finished screenplays and first drafts in my box of scripts. I don't want another one.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Trendy Oscar time

I love The Oscars. The glamor and the dresses and the predictions and the parties and the way this town turns upside down for the night - all that interests me. But it seems like the longer I live here, the more aware I get of how much the movies don't really matter on Oscar night. I know I'm like the umpteen thousandth person to realize this, but, you know, still.

Lacy Eye Theater said the other day that Slumdog is the new Crash, and I think I know what he means. I thought Slumdog was fantastic, just like everybody else, but it certainly does seem to be the critical darling right now. Last night on The Daily Show lead actor Dev Patel was on, which wouldn't be weird except, when was the last time John Stewart interviewed an actor who wasn't already his best friend? In the same episode, Stewart implied that Benjamin Button isn't a very good film.

Which brings me to my point. It seems like right now Benjamin Button is the kid who can't get no love while Slumdog is the adopted child who can do no wrong. I liked, nay LOVED, both films, but I don't get this disparity.

I know there are some who genuinely disliked Benjamin Button, although a lot of them have reasons that baffle me. "It has no conflict," "It has no theme," "They didn't make use of the premise," "What's the big deal? He ages backwards, so what? I did that yesterday." "It's Forest Gump revisited."

The Forest Gump thing - okay, I get that. I liked Forest Gump too, but I guess to some there's only room for one grown up fairy tale in this town.

But the rest of the criticism I don't really get. There's tons of conflict all based around a solid central theme. If you just don't like it, okay. But I think a lot of people are claiming not to like it because not liking Benjamin Button is the new thing. It's the most Hollywood of the Oscar nominated films with the most effects and the big hot star and the high concept and probably the most steadycam shots and perfect color correction. Therefore, it must be a terrible film.

Meanwhile, look at Slumdog! It's about foreign people and has a lot of hand cam shots and nobody heard of it before therefore it is the best movie ever.

And Milk is about the gays, so you can't really hate on that one even though it has a big star and a Hollywood budget. And The Reader - has anyone actually seen The Reader? And Frost/Nixon, well we've kind of run out of jokes about Nixon and there's nothing in the trailer but two guys talking to each other so there's not much there to make fun of.

I just wonder sometimes how many members of the Academy actually watch each film before voting, and how many just look at what their buddies are voting for and go along with the crowd.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Thoughts on the film: Transporter 3

I signed up for the Oscar writers Q&A last night and then totally forgot to go. I do that a lot, although less so when I'm on vacation.

Instead of listening to Oscar nominated writers discuss their methods and experienced, I watched Transporter 3.

It's not like I expected it to be good or anything, but I was kind of hoping it was like Shoot 'Em Up, ridiculous action inside a fun story. The first Transporter was like that. This guy has all these rules - the rules are what guide his life. And then one day he decides to break those rules and all hell breaks loose.

The second and third movies just didn't have that kind of conflict. The second one was a mess, and this thing I saw last night was empty action. The Transporter takes a girl through a bunch of European towns, followed the entire time by the bad guys. Why didn't the bad guys take her through a bunch of European towns? It makes absolutely no sense that they included this extra guy in their nefarious scheme. I guess maybe they wanted him to just shift the girl around so nobody would find her, but they never really made that clear. They never really made anything clear.

The next big problem is that we spend like 80% of this movie in the car with Frank and the girl and they're supposed to fall in love or something, but there is NO chemistry between them. It's not difficult to make Jason Statham sexy, but here he looks downright annoyed to have to have sex with this girl. I think he might hate her, but she practically rapes him and then won't leave him alone.

I mean I really hated this girl. She had NO redeeming qualities.

I was hoping she would die. SPOILER ALERT - she doesn't. No, this chick clings to him right to the end, still annoying, as if he can't get rid of her.

Here's what I was thinking should have been the second Transporter. Frank broke his rules on the last job, so Frank's reputation is fucked. What if the second movie was Frank trying to prove himself? He didn't give up his previous life willingly, so he takes small driving jobs while he tries to convince bad guys to hire him again. Then just as he gets a new job, something happens that forces him to choose between the rules and his hard-earned career. Could be law enforcement is on his ass. Could be someone he loves is in danger. But the elements that worked for the first movie was the internal conflict, a conflict that is sorely neglected in both the second and third movies.

I guess in the second, caring for the kid could have been something but I don't really remember that much about the kid - I mostly remember that crazy '80s lady who wore underwear and shot lots of guns randomly.

I'll say this for Transporter 3 though, I certainly did see a lot of Jason Statham's finely chiseled chest. I think all movies could use a little more of that.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Game Night trailer

Look what I did!

This is my first trailer for Game Night. As you can hear, I am a shitty, shitty audio editor. A few of these transitions bother me too, but overall I am proud or my accomplishment.

Not Safe for Work Language largely because of the liberal use of the word "fuck".

Also you can get a nice look at my lovely well-lit apartment.

Also this is the first thing I've ever edited in my life.